A Birmingham welfare chief is warning council and social housing tenants that they may not get extra help to pay the bedroom tax next year following Government cuts.
In the last year the city council has handed out £5.3 million in discretionary housing payments to help the city’s most vulnerable tenants cope with the extra charges. The fund was designed to soften the blow of £11 million in housing benefit cuts due to the removal of the spare room subsidy.
Families who needed the extra room for carers, or child access visits or who simply cannot move house because of work, school or family in an area, were able to apply for extra hardship payments after being charged an extra £14 per week per empty room - and about 14,000 were helped.
But the City Council has been told it will only get £4.1 million from the Department for Work and Pensions in 2014/15 - a cut of £1.2 million, meaning thousands may have to dig deeper to cover the rent.
Coun Cotton (Lab, Shard End) said: “Our initial Government fund was exhausted by January this year and we were given a little bit extra. All of that has now been exhausted.
“Clearly £4.1 million is not going to be enough to meet demand next year. There are many reasons people wish to stay in their home - schools, work, GPs, networks of family and friends - and we are seeing rises in debt and rent arrears as they struggle to make ends meet.”
He also pointed out that Birmingham has a shortage of one-bedroom properties leaving people limited options to move.
The news comes after the BBC revealed that only six per cent of tenants in the UK had moved to smaller property as a result of the bedroom tax freeing up homes for larger families - which was the aim of the policy.
“The bedroom tax has has a devastating effect on people in Birmingham. It shows that only six per cent have moved when the Government originally predicted about 25 per cent.”
The Government announced that the policy has saved £1 million a day from the housing benefit bill. Work and Pension Secretary Ian Duncan Smith said: “It was absolutely necessary that we fixed the broken system which just a year ago allowed the taxpayer to cover the £1 million daily cost of spare rooms in social housing.”